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Matt Ryan playing like 2007 version of Tom Brady

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A football world openly pining for a marquee Super Bowl matchup between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers discovered Sunday that Matt Ryan is nobody's consolation prize.

Twice in the past two years, FOX analyst Troy Aikman has stated that Rodgers is playing quarterback at a higher level than it has ever been played.

Entering Conference Championship Sunday, the prevailing sentiment seemed to acknowledge that Brady is the greatest of all time while Rodgers at his best is the best we've ever seen.

If a locked-in Ryan can't match peak Rodgers or Brady in arm talent, ball placement, field vision and improvisation, he certainly isn't far behind two legends.

For all of the hype over Rodgers' transcendent "run the table" stretch, Ryan boasts superior numbers over the past two months.

As impressive as Ryan was as the MVP favorite in the regular season, he has lifted his game to another level in the postseason.

His 139.4 passer rating versus the Packers was the second-highest ever posted in a conference championship game, trailing only Kurt Warner's 145.7 in January of 2009. Exhibiting uncanny accuracy and underappreciated pocket movement, he became the first player of the Super Bowl era to pass for at least four touchdowns without an interception while rushing for at least one score in a playoff game.

With that remarkable performance, Ryan entered new territory as the first quarterback in history to record a passer rating over 120.0 in six consecutive games.

Ryan's scintillating surge not only surpasses any six-game stretch from Brady this season, but also bears close resemblance to the most effective streak ever produced by the greatest to play the position.

Ryan has pulled off another feat unmatched by Brady, Rodgers or any other field general: directing his offensive to an opening-drive touchdown in eight consecutive games. He hasn't been kept out of the end zone on his first possession since early November.

We can concede that Ryan benefits from Kyle Shanahan's prescient play-calling and Julio Jones' unparalleled playmaking prowess without detracting from the quarterback's accomplishments.

Before Jones made Ryan's life easier, Brady had the luxury of throwing to Randy Moss -- the most unstoppable deep threat football has seen. Before Brady and Moss connected for an NFL-record 23 touchdowns in a magical 2007 season, Joe Montana and Steve Young reached gridiron nirvana with Jerry Rice, the wide-receiver deity headlining "The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players" list.

Try as we might, football players cannot be extracted from their coaching staffs and surrounding talent.

The Falcons have provided Ryan with exceptional coaching and an ideal arsenal of complementary weapons. To Ryan's credit, he has taken full advantage, playing quarterback like a fast-breaking point guard with unmatched court vision.

"The ball distribution is at an all-time high for him," former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez marveled last week, "and it's the reason why he should get MVP this year because he's playing out of his mind.

"He's a complete master at this game right now."

If Ryan paints another masterpiece in Super Bowl LI, the Falcons will make history as the first team ever to score at least 30 points 14 times in a season. If he also leads his team to victory, he will do so at the helm of the highest-scoring offense to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

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